Mark Golden Addresses Canon and Comics

Chuck Welch
September 14, 2009 - discuss

Editor’s Note: For over 10 years and 20,000+ messages, the Flearun group has discussed all that is Doc Savage. From plots, themes, authors, illustrators, to what is, and is not, canon. Recently, news of Doc Savage at a central part of a new DC comic series sparked discussion about comics changing the beloved character. Member Mark J. Golden had a well-written take that he agreed to republish here…

This, of course is not unique to Doc Savage.

Think of some of the other immortal, even iconic figures in popular fiction. Then go back to their original sources.

Frankenstein is the most obvious example. Say the name, people think immediately of Boris Karloff’s brilliant portrayal on film in Jack Pearce make up (or some derivation thereof) … even though Frankenstein is the scientist, not his creation. Who is referred to as “the creature” and not a monster. And far from the inarticulate being with a damaged brain so characteristic of most people’s imaginations, this creature actually taught himself to read, write and speak, and is the narrator of a good part of the original book.

Likewise Tarzan. Self taught. literate and articulate in the Burrough’s original. How often has THAT been carried forward into comics or film?.

Sherlock Holmes … until the very literal productions with Jeremy Brett on PBS, there were many, many truly excellent on screen presentations and comics that had little or no resemblance to the characters or settings in the book. Even the “classic” Rathbone/Bruce duo is NOTHING like anything Conan Doyle ever penned.

And I could go on on and on . . .

The problem (IMHO) with Doc Savage is that he has never really caught on in any form OTHER than the original novels … and even there, limited to an intensely loyal but relatively small readership. So anything different from that conception is provocatively obvious. Really fine writers like Will Murray who truly understand and love and breath the essence of the original can write new adventures in the original media (novels) that rise above mere imitation. But give Doc to a truly gifted writer who feels less constrained with the original vision (for example, Philip Jose Farmer) and you get “Escape from Loki.” It is arguably a better written novel than anything Dent and team ever wrote. But it is a brilliant PJF novel, with little or no resemblance to the original in tone, nature, character or any other attribute. I suspect that even further straying from the source will inevitably occur with ANY foray into a new media for Doc Savage.

I truly wish that someone, somewhere would create a film or comic that tells the story of Frankenstein, or the Phantom of the Opera, or Tarzan, the way their creators told their stories. And I wait in vein. In most cases, thriving careers in other media have supplanted and replaced the original, literary creation altogether. IF Doc ever makes the leap into mass market awareness in some media other than novels, I suspect it is inevitable that it will be a different Doc. Maybe better. Maybe worse. Certainly different.

(Even the Street and Smith Doc Savage comics of the 30s/40s, produced contemporaneously with the original novels, with the involvement if not approval of the same folks producing the pulps … you can truly say of thej that “Any resemblance of the persons and characters in this book to other literary characters of the same name is purely coincidence. “)

Mark J. Golden, CAE



Editor’s Note: For over 10 years and 20,000+ messages, the Flearun group has discussed all that is Doc Savage. From plots, themes, authors, illustrators, to what is, and is not, canon. Recently, news of Doc Savage at a central part of a new DC comic series sparked discussion about comics changing the beloved character. Member Mark J. Golden had a well-written take that he agreed to republish here…

› tags: bantam / behind the scenes / doc savage / docsavage / lester dent / media / pulp /

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  1. John Contreras says:

    Batman will always be Batman same as Tarzan and Superman.I have read the books ,comics and seen the various serials and movies.Only one thing stood out, that every time the new story teller stayed true to the character.Michael Keaton as Batman?But when I was in that theater everyone cheered when the batplane made the batman symbol with the full moon.When Chris Reeves came out of that telephone booth and Ron Ely raced though the jungle in the new loincloth.Yes there will have to be a revamp such as the DC and Marvel Universes.If I dont like the new Doc Savage..I still have 181 old ones to remember him by.Sincerely,John Contreras

  2. John Small says:

    Having now had the opportunity to read some of these new DC Doc stories, I must say that while they are not quite as terrible as I feared they might be, they are still pretty bad – primarily because the writer seems to have only a tenuous idea at best of who Doc and his aides are. Change in fictional characters is inevitable over time – to take Mark’s observations a step further, it can be argued that the Doc Savage of Dent’s later stories is a far cry from the hero readers were introduced to in “The Man of Bronze” – but to basically IGNORE what has come before, as DC has done here, just seems the wrong way to go. What really irks me about this is that while I have always preferred DC’s comics to Marvel’s in general, DC just never seems to get Doc right while Marvel’s black and white series of the 1970s still stands (in my mind, at least) as the high-water mark in Doc Savage’s comic book adventures.

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